Nude on the Bering SeabyNigel Debonnaire©
Cold, too damn cold. Why am I doing this, I asked myself. Because I'm a fisherman, I answered. Fuck that, I ask myself, why the hell aren't you fishing in Hawaii or Mexico where it's warm? Because I'm a fucking crab fisherman and right now, the crabs are in the Bering Fucking Sea. Well, says the genius in my head, you're not too damn smart, are you? Got that right in one, fuckhead.
Typical freeze-your-nuts off January fishing for opies. The boat was rockin' in pretty good swells, the sky was grey, and if you weren't careful, you'd get a face full of freezing spray. Momma Mack was driving us to the next pot in the 35 hour shift, and I was praying to Mother Mary, Saint Jude and any other saint that might be listening up there to give us some crab so we could get out of this shit. We were finishing another piss poor string, 35 average, and we'd just hauled enough crabs in 7 days to pay the fuel bill. This pot might buy us breakfast if we were lucky.
Barry Jordan threw the hook and snagged the line, as usual. Twelve years working the deck will make you an expert. "Here we go again," he shouted as he put the line in the block and it started hauling the gear up from the bottom of the sea. The Fishing Vessel Twisted Sister is the best boat in the whole damn fleet; I don't give a shit about Sig Hansen, the Hillstrands or Keith Asshole Colburn. Momma Mack's brought us home will full boats 20 straight years in the Bering Sea, and I still had confidence in her. Well, I have a few other things, but it isn't time to go about that. Our greenhorn, Brad Hollister, filled another setup and looked at me: "Do ya think Momma Mack's got tits after all?"
What the fuck? "What makes you say that?" I said to the oversized 20 year old twerp with short dark hair and a week old beard.
"I woulda thought a lady captain would take it easy on us, let us have a break once in a while. We're getting busted just like last year on the Arctic Adventurer, and that asshole captain ended up at the bottom of the sea."
Brad was the only survivor of a boat we lost last year. I swear the only reason he survived is he was goofing off and the only one who had time to get into his survival suit. Momma Mack took pity and hired him last fall for Reds after we burned out a greenhorn fishing Blue King Crab, but I found myself wishing several times he'd gone down with his ship after he came on board. "We're fishin crab," I said, "if it takes 40 hours to find 'em, then we take 40 hours to find 'em. Kin always sleep when we get back to Dutch. Crab fishermen fish. You wanna sleep, go home."
"I unnerstand, don't get me wrong, but this ain't real."
"It's real, son. And don't talk about Momma Mack's tits, or I'll beat the shit outta you when we get back to port."
The pot broke the surface just as a huge wave washed over us. I ducked into my usual spot under the crane and stayed dry; asshole Brad was the only one got soaked. We laughed out loud at him, then whined when I saw only 20 crabs in the pot. Shit. The sun was goin' down, and we'd probably see it come up tomorrow.
"Clear the deck, and tie everything down tight," the voice of the woman I loved crackled over the loudspeaker. "We got more weather comin' in. We'll try to run over and get the far eastern string before it gets too bad, but we might not make it. Get everything secured and you'll have time for a bite and a nap."
Terry Swift, Saggy Ass Johnson, and Barry hauled ass to make sure everything was secured. I took a look at the bait situation and punched Brad hard in the arm: "Hey, asshole! How much bait d'ya think we got right now?"
He gave me a glazed look, and turned slowly to check things out. "Bout 20 pots worth," he whined.
"Is that enough to set back the next set of gear if we're on the crab?"
I punched him in the arm again. "Why didn't the fuck you tell me this a few hours ago?"
The little jerk wasn't fazed. "Dunno, been up a long time. Forgot."
I smiled. "Well, YOU get to go tell the captain. It's your responsibility, your fuck-up. In person this time, she won't put up with a phone call 'bout this."
He sauntered off toward the wheelhouse at the back of the boat, almost falling a couple of times on the swaying deck, and disappeared through the hatch upstairs. I took a look at the wheelhouse window and saw the Captain there and knew what it was like: her grey black hair in a tight bun, a cigarette at her lips, a mug of coffee in one hand, her feet doing the mambo in nervous energy, her eyes scanning the horizon frantically. The weather was coming up, and the boat was moving more and more dramatically from side to side as she plowed through increasingly higher waves. Brad got to the wheelhouse and I saw her turn to talk to him. There were a few gestures and Donna put her coffee cup down hard next to the wheel. Saggy Ass Johnson laughed, and said: "I know what's coming next." A couple moments there was a flash of motion from the captain's chair, then it was occupied again; the engine snarled to life and we started to turn. Momma Mack got on the loudspeaker again: "Guys, the horn's fucked us over again. We gotta haul a few cod pots so we'll have bait for the next string. Be sure and show him the love for this."
I went through the routine of getting the crane battened down, and hatch the door opened. Brad staggered across the deck, more awkwardly than usual, trying to keep his legs as far apart as possible and bending over slightly as he walked. Stupid motherfucker, probably get fired when we get back to Dutch. When he got in earshot, I asked: "What's up, junior? Little disagreement with the captain?"
"The bitch kicked me in the balls!" he gasped, before falling dramatically to the deck.
I looked away as if I didn't care, which I didn't. "Is that so? Did you get to explain everything to her the way you wanted to?"
"Yeah. Shit, she moves like a cat."
"And did she tell you how much trouble it'll be to haul cod pots in this shit?"
"Yeah, in detail. Said I shoulda told her three hours ago."
"Go figure. Do you think your ass is grass now?"
"Damn! But she kicked me in the balls! One minute, she's sitting there, blowing smoke, then her foot hits me like. . ."
". . .a piece of ice fallin' off the crane hittin' your head?"
I shook my head, not giving him any help. "I hope you learned your lesson, junior."
"But she kicked me in the balls!"
"Junior, she's done that to almost everybody on this boat. Don't take it personal. Learn. You better get back on your feet before you roll off the boat, I won't throw you a line. Get inside and don't whine; the other guys won't give you no sympathy neither. This is a crab boat, and you gotta have balls of iron around here. Especially with Momma Mack."
He gave me an ugly look, got up and limped into the rain gear room. The sky looked awful, the sun was about to set and I could tell it would be an awful evening. Even hauling cod pots would be tough.
Across the deck, I saw a pot at the end of the line badly tied. Shit, do I have to do everything on the damn boat, I thought. I got a couple of ties, and figured it would be nothing to dash over and secure it. I was wrong: a huge rogue wave broke over the deck while I was exposed and threw me into the bulkhead headfirst, twisting my ankle and banging my wrist in the process. Everything went fuzzy: I remember hearing Momma Mack shouting over the speaker, water roaring in my ears, my body going limp except my hands, which latched onto an opening in the wooden floor as another wave threw me back across the deck. I've cheated death on crab boats for over 20 fucking years, I wasn't gonna let a rogue wave get me. The Bering Sea sucked at me and pulled me, I almost heard it calling my name, but I didn't let go. Then everything went black.
I woke up in my quarters, with Momma Mack looked at me with her worried look. "Hank Martin, you must be the most hard headed man in the Bering Sea crab fleet."
"You know it," I whispered. "What the hell happened?"
"First of all, gotta apologize, shoulda seen that wave comin'. Brad's little drama pissed me off and I couldn't see straight. I thought the deck was clear, 'til I saw you take that header. For a minute I thought we lost ya."
"Fat chance, lady. You ain't losin' me that easy."
She smiled and put a surprisingly soft hand on my cheek. "I'm glad. Barry almost had to stomp on your hands to get you to let go of the hatch cover opening."
The room spun a little, but it was the boat on the water. "Did we pull the cod pots?"
"Naw, the weather's got too shitty. Everybody's stopped fishing, the fleet's jogging or anchored up. It'll blow over in a few hours, and we'll have to get'em then."
I looked across the little cabin. The only perk I got as the captain's long term partner was sharing the cabin with her, but we had to sleep in a couple of small bunks that look like drawers built into the bulkhead. "Who's drivin the boat?"
"Barry. You know he's a better pilot in bad weather than I am."
"You're not too bad, in fact you're as good as he is."
"And I'm beat to death, too. The rest of the boys are sleeping. Just need to get outta the chair and move around."
Donna Mackenzie, my Momma Mack, is a tough lady. Born in coastal Alaska, grew up on the Bering Sea, her old man was a third generation crabber, and her first time on the boat was as a teenager, cooking and helping a little at the sorting table. Slowly but surely she learned how the boat operated, how to fish, how the engine room ran, and by the time her old man died she was ready to take his place. Twenty five year old captains are rare in the fleet, but Donna was the only female captain for many years. I met her salmon fishing about 22 years ago and the rest is history. Her decks run perfectly; I make sure of that. All her decks, year round, if ya know what I mean, wink, wink. We haven't made it to a preacher yet, but who cares these days?
She was still gorgeous at fifty five, my Momma Mack: she was six feet tall, long greying dark hair when she didn't wear it in a bun, and well proportioned, strong and agile after studying ballet as a youngster (yes, they have ballet in Alaska!), as well as karate in the off seasons. She wore a plain white blouse tied up under her breasts, shorts and flip flops. She's a damned polar bear after growin' up in Alaska; usually wears windbreaker when everyone else wears parkas.
I'm still a wiry runt at the same age with totally grey hair, a slight limp, and nine fingers after an accident when I was nineteen. Hell, I grew up on a ranch in Oklahoma, what did I know about commercial fishing? It's a miracle I survived long enough to love this life, can't do anythin' else. Why she ended up with me is a mystery. But I don't need to know, I'm good with it.
Her face was lined with worry and her brown eyes soft as she looked me over. "How d'ya feel?"
"Shitty. My head don't hurt too much, but my ankle's killin' me. Musta turned it pretty bad when I came down. My left wrist's tweaked too, but that first happened last week."
"Your eyes look all right, so I don't think your brains are more scrambled than usual. Nauseous?"
"No thanks, not right now."
"Not lying down."
"With you, sweetheart, always."
She smiled a little, and peeled back the blanket to look at my right ankle. "Yeah, looks like it's swollen. I'll get ya an ice pack."
"Halibut. Nothin' but the best for the man I love."
She slinked out of the room and I was able to focus. I could tell from the sound (I'm the ship's engineer, too) and the pictures swaying on the wall the Twisted Sister was laboring through an industrial washing machine. Couldn't fish through that. The boat was mostly quiet, the boys must be in their bunks, and my watch read 0315. I'd been out for nine hours. Shit.
She came in with a tray: "All right, lover, here's your breakfast. Baloney sandwich, coffee, a frozen halibut and ibuprofen. If you don't finish it all, I'll whip your ass."
I sat up and accepted the tray. She put the fish on my aching leg, threw the pills in my mouth, and plumped the pillow before I could take a slug of coffee. "And to think you're a mother," I muttered.
"That's your fault, Sweetheart. By the way, they're grounded again, Mom caught them out after curfew. Again. Lisa took her punishment without a word, but Ben whined fifteen minutes before he gave up."
I took a bite of the sandwich. "Like father, like son. Sounds like me at fifteen."
"Shut up, I don't want to remember how old they are."
"How could I forget? We barely got in through a January storm to make a delivery at Dutch and right after offload we had to haul your ass to the hospital. How you ran the ship nine months pregnant with twins I'll never know."
"We had to make money and it was still derby format. Hell, if it happened any earlier, the Coast Guard would have had come out and catch them before they hit the wheelhouse floor."
I touched her cheek. "That's the woman I love." I finished my sandwich and worked on the coffee. "What's the plan?"
"Well, thanks to Brad's stupidity, we'll have to haul a few cod pods when the weather lets up. Then we'll go over to the eastern string and see if there's any crab over there. Chatter in the fleet makes me think there'll be there, but the fleet's been wrong before." She slumped her shoulders and sighed heavily. "It's like we've got bad juju on the ship this time."
Laughing, I put my cup down. "You're just as bad as the guys are. Four days ago they cut all their hair off, trying to turn our luck around, and two days ago Saggy Ass Johnson tried to get us all to drink cod blood, straight from the cod."
"Yuck. I wondered why they looked like they painted their faces."
"Well, his mother's from Samoa, says it's warrior thing."
Donna sat back and shook her head. "Well, Hell's bells, Hank, I don't know. It's like we left on a Friday with a cargo of dead birds. Can't believe how bad this trip is."
I touched her hair. "You're worried, the delivery date's too soon and we have to get on the crab ASAP." She nodded her head. "We'll find them, we always do. We won't have to sell our quota. Don't worry."
She half climbed into my bunk, avoiding my bum ankle, to hold me a little. Her hand touched my thigh, and I responded like a sailor. "Wow, how long's it been?" she smirked.
"You should know: the night before we left Seattle. We've been busy, and we don't have any queen sized beds around here."
Moving to sit on the floor, she pulled out my tackle and spit on it. "You've had a shitty bad day. Let's make it better."
"You do this for all the crippled sailors?" I quipped as her soft hand started moving up and down on my shaft.
"Only the ones who've fathered my children."
I chuckled. "Guess I'll get another one of these someday."
She smiled and licked me for lubrication. I put my good hand behind head and looked at her, taking in her bronzed face and looking down her blouse at a hint of white. She caught my attention and unbuttoned a couple of buttons, giving me a better view of her creamy white breast. The ship wobbled on its way and she timed her stroking to work with it, bringing me close very quickly after three week's celibacy. When I started gasping and bucking, she leaned over and took my cock in her mouth, her tongue working magic and making me explode between her loving lips.
I caught my breath when I was finished and looked at the most beautiful woman in the world. "Thanks, sweetheart."
Licking her lips, she showed me her white covered tongue before swallowing it all down. "Be grateful. If I didn't do that, the whole cabin'd smell like sperm the rest of the trip."
"Like the other cabins?"
"Shut up. I gotta sleep." She patted my thigh and crawled up into her bunk. I put my cock and balls back into my pants and drifted off again. Three hours later she got everyone else up to haul cod pots, and gave me a fresh herring for my ankle. And they say romance is dead.
The phone woke me up around daybreak. "Need you to take the wheel for a while. You good for that?"
"I can even run the hydros. Be up in 5."
"Just come up here. Don't need you on the deck today."
I grabbed a cup of coffee as I passed the galley, and made it up the stairs without too much trouble. The seas weren't as bad as the past few days, and a glimpse outside showed a clear sky. the crew was busy, and even asshole Brad seemed to be ready with the bait for once. Donna was still wearing her outfit from a few hours before, her foot tapping frantically in her flip flop, as I got to the wheel house. "How's it today?"
"Almost bearable. Temps just above freezing, clouds breaking, waves manageable. Guys busted ice for a coupla hours, and we're comin' up on the first pot in thirty minutes."
"Great. What do you want me to do?"
"I got an errand to run, so drive the boat till I get back."
"Just shut the fuck up and do as you're told for once."
She got up out of the chair, and I gave her a quick squeeze as she passed going to the stairs. Looking over the screens and instruments, I saw we were on course and clear of any other boats. Actually, the other boats in the fleet were well away from our destination, so if we landed on the crab we wouldn't have competition. The radio sounded: "Northwestern calling Twisted Sister, Northwestern calling Twisted Sister. You there, Momma Mack?"
I picked up the mic. "You got Hank, Sig."
"Hey, Hank. How's it goin'? "
"Shitty. Got just enough for a crab salad. You?"
"Pulling blanks again. Don't think anyone's on the crab. Andy's griping on the Time Bandit, and Keith's been beggin' for news all season."
"Ah, there's always been fucked up seasons like this."
"Yeah, I know it. How's the family?"
"Fine. Kids broke curfew again, Grandma had to bust their asses."
"Been there, done that."
"But Ben's goin' fishing this summer."
"Well, my god! Congratulations! How old is he?"
"Shit. I remember that night in Dutch, I drove the car to the hospital, almost had to hold those guys in till we got there. Doesn't seem like that long ago."
I saw a motion on deck, and the crew responded with puzzled looks. "Gotta run, Sig, somethin's up. Over and out."
"All right. Over and out."
Donna was walking across the deck naked. Her hair was unbound and flowed freely behind her, her glorious pure white ass standing out against her bronzed body. The sight of her butt muscles working elegantly gave me another hard on. The crew literally stopped in its tracks as she moved across the deck to the prow of the ship and watched with wide open mouths. She made her way easily in spite of being barefoot, but hell, she was almost born on a ship. When she reached the prow, she spread her legs, grabbed the rails and stuck her body out as an offering to the crab gods. The spray soaked her, yet she shouted against the wind. Barry told me later what she was yelling: "Okay, you bastards, here I am again. Guess I have to do this again every thirty years. Here I am Bering Sea, here's everything I got. Give it to me, give me your best shot. Do your worst." A wave came over the rail, and she took it head on, clinging to the railing. "All right, you happy now? Do it again if you want to, I can take it, do it again! I want your crab, goddamn it, I deserve it! Give me your crab! Give me your goddamn fucking crab! Give me those goddamn fucking opies!" Another wave broke over her and she screamed in defiance, shaking her head back and forth, taunting the waves and spray.
The crew was still frozen in place as she walked back to the wheelhouse, her hair slicked down, her lily white breasts bouncing freely with huge, rock hard nipples, her soaked grey pubic hair tinged with black. She stalked back across the deck, a determined look on her face, proud and defiant at a dignified pace. It was all I could do to hold the ship on course and I barely turned to meet a rogue wave that would have cleared the deck. The spray drenched her again as we took the wave head on, but she didn't vary her pace until she was through the hatch and off deck. The patter of feet told me she ran back to the cabin once the hatch was closed.